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All across Twitter, Americans have expressed shock and anger at the chaos that occurred at the U.S. Capitol building. Still, behind closed doors, one group is silently cheering the spectacle of right-wing Republicans interrupting the electoral process that usually represents the peaceful transition of power in our democracy. Democrats have the political ammunition now to usher in a complete takeover of the media narrative, threatening to silence anyone deemed undesirable.
On the other hand, the GOP is reeling. President Trump’s usually inconsequential criticism from within his party is being amplified, while the president’s staunch defenders in Congress have gone relatively quiet, especially on Twitter. It has become nearly impossible to disassociate the public calls to contest the election from the challenges promised by Republican representatives and senators to their bases on Twitter. In all forms, Republicans are on the defensive and in full retreat on social media.
Moderate Republicans and die-hard Trump supporters are in a cold war over the future of the Republican Party, with many moderates meekly agreeing with Democrats and calling for the president to resign over his promotion of the protest, which led to the storming of the Capitol’s halls. Moderate Republicans and Democrats have scapegoated Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) for their continued support of contesting Arizona and Pennsylvania’s election results. Both have been under constant attack on Twitter for their roles in the ordeal, and the Republican Party that outwardly appeared unified is no more. This conflict is roiling mostly offstage, leaving Twitter as an important battleground in the fight for the party’s future direction.
On Twitter, some moderate Republicans have objected to the leadership of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), criticizing their support for efforts to contest the election. Instead, many have called for the party to shift its ideological center away from the president and his supporters to moderates like Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY). Cheney was one of the first to criticize the effort to stymie the electoral vote process and to condemn Trump’s rhetoric at the protest.
These calls represent the tug of war behind closed congressional doors. Cruz and Hawley are seen as focused on a White House run in 2024 and capturing the populist fervor Trump used to win in 2016. Others, like Liz Cheney, Larry Hogan, and Chris Christie, have presidential hopes, too, but they have occasionally decried Trump’s harsh rhetoric about the election results. As mainstream Republicans continue to debate the merits and costs of breaking with the president, many Republican voters are dismayed by the party’s rocky status.
While Democrats boast of being the “umbrella party” sheltering a variety of ideological factions, the mask of Republican unity cultivated and maintained by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) has crumbled. Democrats now have the political capital to push their agenda on all fronts, while Republicans are in disarray. As social media tech giants silence what they claim to be radical voices within the Republican Party, moderates seem poised to take leadership. The question that must be answered: Does this moment signal a return to the pre-Trump Republican Party that led voters to electoral failure in 2008 and 2012?
Read more from Jose Backer.
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